Whether you've Couchsurfed for years or are a newbie, here are a few suggestions for enhancing your Couchsurfing experience:
1. Write a thorough and honest profile. Hosts will appreciate it and will base their response off of it. Think of it like your resume for applying to stay with them. The reason we requested to stay with a few of our hosts was because we saw we had common interests, and we thought we would get along. If you're traveling as a couple, make a joint profile with both of your names. That way, your host understands there are two of you.
2. Read all host profiles and references thoroughly. If we hadn't done this, we might have stayed with the biggest partier west of the Mississippi.
3. Look at the potential host's response rate when you request to stay. If someone has a 0% response rate, you might be wasting your time reaching out.
4. Communicate your schedule during your stay. Our flights were pushed back by a few hours, so I let our host know we were going to be late so they weren't waiting around.
5. Communicate expectations before and during your stay. Does your host expect to have a meal together? Should you only be in their home when they are home? Getting everything open and on the table will make your stay easier for everyone.
6. Be safe. Obviously, there are calculated risks associated with Couchsurfing. Consider traveling with a partner, or staying with someone of the same sex. If anything feels weird - leave. For example, we pulled up to a house that is now referred to between the two of us as "death house." There was no way we were going to stay there and we started searching for hotels. Fortunately, we rechecked our host's address, and realized it wasn't death house. We will admit that when you first try the Couchsurfing experience, it's a little weird to get used to, but there is a clear difference between being awkward and feeling unsafe. It is recommended that you meet in public in a neutral location, and that you don't reveal any of your personal information (such as phone numbers and address) until you've met who you're staying with / hosting.
7. Offer to help. Your host is letting you stay in their house. For FREE. Offer to cook a meal, take out the trash, etc. Return kindness with kindness.
8. Get to know your host. They are probably an extremely interesting person, and you might make a new friend. An hour of conversation reveals common interests, insights, and a different perspective.
9. Be flexible. You might get your own room and a bed (and a bathroom!), or you literally might be sleeping on a couch or air mattress.
10. Be open. Your host is opening up their home to you. Try to be open to new experiences if they want to take you crabbing with their group of friends, etc. Jake had never been to a Farmer's Market before, and our first host took us to one. Then we took her to a fish hatchery and watched her geek about sturgeon. So great!
11. Be respectful. Everyone you meet will be different. Sometimes you'll stay with someone who wants minimal contact or is too busy to hang out, and sometimes you may come out of it with lifelong friends. You'll stay with people you instantly click with, and you will probably stay with someone who you have a hard time relating to. Just be kind and grateful for the experience and the roof.
12. Realize that it's about more than saving money. This was our main focus as we signed up for Couchsurfing, but we came out of it with so much more. Saving money was a nice side effect of getting to hang out with amazing and helpful people.